The ‘Intelligent Design’ Decision

America’s Newspapers Speak Out

ID: Religious At Its Core

Advocates of intelligent design don’t talk about God, and they use scientific-sounding language. But Judge Jones’s opinion, all 139 pages of it, makes abundantly clear that intelligent design – which posits that the complexity of natural life shows distinctive elements of design – is nonetheless religious at its core. While its partisans do not identify who the designer is, they offer a supernatural explanation for natural phenomena, which is an essentially nonscientific approach – untested and indeed untestable….

 The separation of church and state does not tolerate the promulgation of religion in public schools. Case law has clarified that this restriction prevents jurisdictions both from prohibiting the teaching of evolution and from requiring the teaching of creationism as science alongside it. Judge Jones has taken an important additional step, holding that it also forbids the teaching of creationism masked in scientific lingo, even without overt references to God. If a school district adopts a policy of promoting a religious cosmology, however couched, in an effort to undermine science and thereby instill religious values, that policy must fall. As other jurisdictions contemplate similar acts of what Judge Jones calls “breathtaking inanity,” this is a good principle for courts to follow.

The Washington Post

  Dec. 22, 2005

No Activist Judge Here

The judge in the Pennsylvania case, John Jones III, can hardly be accused of being a liberal activist out to overturn community values – even by those inclined to see conspiracies. He is a lifelong Republican, appointed to the bench by President Bush, and has been praised for his integrity and intellect. Indeed, as the judge pointed out, the real activists in this case were ill-informed school board members, aided by a public interest law firm that promotes Christian values, who combined to drive the board to adopt an imprudent and unconstitutional policy….

The religious thrust behind Dover’s policy was unmistakable. The board members who pushed the policy through had repeatedly expressed religious reasons for opposing evolution, though they tried to dissemble during the trial….

 No one believes that this thoroughgoing repudiation of intelligent design will end the incessant warfare over evolution. But any community that is worried about the ability of its students to compete in a global economy would be wise to keep supernatural explanations out of its science classes.

The New York Times

  Dec. 22, 2005

Religion And Science Need Not Fight

In the decision, Jones cuts through much of the confusion swirling around intelligent design and evolution, providing Americans a sharply drawn primer in the difference between science and religion. Evolution, tested by a century and a half of research and observation, is science. Intelligent design, or ID, is religion because it suggests an unprovable supreme being as the “designer” of all life.

Note that the judge distinguished science from religion. He did not declare one superior or subordinate to the other. In explaining why, he not only solved a classroom crisis, but offered Americans a wise and intriguing way to think about the nexus of science and religion.

This part didn’t make headlines. But deep in the opinion, here’s what Jones wrote: “….[M]any of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general.” In the trial, the judge continued, the scientific experts who testified against ID said “that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.”

Chicago Tribune

  Dec. 22, 2005

Affirming The Liberty Of All Americans

ID in Dover was quite a story. The cast of characters includes zealous Christians who got on a local school board, pressured teachers, and finally get their friendly vote. It includes teachers in the Dover schools who spunkily defended their sense of what their students deserved.

And it includes a think tank called the Discovery Institute, which has cleverly spread the gospel of ID, and the Thomas More Law Center of Ann Arbor, Mich. This self-described “sword and shield for people of faith” jumped into the Dover situation to create a long-sought test case on ID. It includes the Dover parents who organized a grassroots campaign that swept to victory in the last election, changing the school board’s balance….

What shines forth today is the strength and clarity of the Constitution, how easily it exposed this attempt to swap sound science for one group’s creed. How beautiful this document is, which allows all Americans to worship or not, believe or not, see intelligent design in the cosmos or not. The First Amendment smiles on public schooling that favors no one special-interest group; it encourages a shared culture of learning, not one that makes our children walking experiments in political chicanery. By derailing an abuse of liberty, Jones’ decision affirmed the liberty of all Americans.

The Philadelphia Inquirer

  Dec. 21, 2005

Cutting Through The Fog

Federal Judge John E. Jones III restored faith both in rational thinking and in the independent judiciary yesterday when he struck down a Pennsylvania school board’s requirement that intelligent design be taught in public school science classes as “breathtaking inanity.” We hope the decision will stop the damaging movement to present creationism as an equal “alternative” to Darwin’s magisterial theory of evolution and help restore science to its proper place in the national canon.

Jones, a lifetime Republican who was appointed to the federal bench by President Bush in 2002, neatly cut through the fog of ambiguity conjured by proponents to declare that intelligent design is not science and “cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.” In a detailed 139-page ruling, he concluded that requiring intelligent design to be taught in public schools is an unconstitutional violation of the Establishment Clause forbidding the state from promoting religion.

Boston Globe

  Dec. 21, 2005

Pay Attention, Cobb County

[Jones’] ruling ought to be required reading in Cobb County, where similarly motivated school board members have also attempted to turn biology class into Bible study. The decision by U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III should also be studied by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges, who are now weighing whether Cobb’s evolution disclaimer stickers on high school science texts improperly endorse religion….

Evolution stands on its scientific merit and can be verified through fossils, mutating viruses and molecular biology. The concept of intelligent design and an intelligent designer rests entirely on an individual’s personal belief in a higher power.

The U.S. Constitution guarantees Americans the freedom to believe in that higher power, but it explicitly bans them from imposing those beliefs on others. The First Amendment prohibits conforming public school teaching to any religious sect or dogma.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution

  Dec. 22, 2005

Victory For Common Sense

In his 139-page ruling, Jones said the “citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the board who voted for the ID policy.”

The judge was being too kind by several degrees. In violating the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the board members – especially those who lied on the witness stand in a pathetic attempt to defend their insistence on teaching creationism along with valid science – threw their oaths as public servants to uphold the law out the window.

The lesson for the Dover Area School District is not yet complete, as the court has yet to set damages in the case.

But the victory for common sense and the good sense of the Founding Fathers should be celebrated – the judge’s ruling permanently bars the use of intelligent design policy in “any school” within the district.

York (Pa.) Dispatch

  Dec. 21, 2005

This article was prepared with research help from Americans United Communications Assistant Lauren Smith.